Red pandas and giant pandas. Must be pretty similar, right? I mean they're both "pandas," they both eat bamboo, they're both cute and furry, they even share habitat! But there are also many differences between these two adored creatures. Here are ten facts that'll make you a TRUE panda expert!
1. The red panda is not related to the giant panda. Whereas the giant panda belongs to Family: Ursidae (Bears), the red panda belongs to its own taxonomically unique Family: Ailuridae. The giant panda and the red panda do share some of the same characteristics. This is called “convergent evolution.”
2. The red panda is actually not a panda, at all. It is believed the red panda was given the name "panda" which derived from the Nepalese words: "nigalya ponya" meaning "bamboo eater."
3. The red panda is the "original panda!" Frederic Cuvier, a head keeper at the National Museum of Natural History was not the first to describe the red panda, but he was the first to publish a description of the species, in 1848. He named it Ailurus fulgens for "red shining cat." The giant panda wasn't discovered until nearly 50 years later.
4. Red panda habitat and giant panda habitat overlap in Sichuan, China. Otherwise, nearly 50 percent of the red panda's habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas, including Nepal, Tibet, India, Bhutan, and Myanmar. The giant panda inhabits the six major mountain ranges in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces of China.
5. The red panda and the giant panda both eat bamboo, and lots of it. The average giant panda eats as much as 20 to 45 lbs (9-20 kg) of bamboo shoots a day. The red panda eats 2 to 4 pounds of bamboo shoots and leaves each day - roughly 20 to 30 percent of their body weight.
6. Both the red panda and the giant panda have an extended wrist bone, engineered to strip bamboo! This is also described as a "false thumb."
7. The red panda and the giant panda are both endangered species. Both of these adorable animals are struggling to survive while facing enormous pressure imposed by human beings including habitat loss and degradation. Both species now rely on the conservation interventions of humans to ensure their survival.
8. The red panda and the giant panda are both bred in captivity in zoos worldwide, as part of the American Zoo Association's Species Survival Program. Zoos are performing an invaluable role with this program, to ensure the long-term survival of many species that urgently need to be conserved and protected in the wild. It is a little known fact that the red panda can also be found at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, in China.
9. Both the giant panda and the red panda are hunted and poached for their fur. While poaching of the giant panda has declined considerably due to strict laws and greater public awareness of the panda’s protected status, the red panda is still poached regularly for it’s pelt and for its glorious tail, which is used to decorate hats during wedding ceremonies in the Yunnan province of China.